Okay, I don’t remember that at all. Now I kinda’ wish I had tried it before it became a Starbucks, which I noticed today is actually a Coffee Peets. But take “kinda’” with a grain of salt; it looked too rundown.
In Search of Golden, Crispy, Delectable Fried Chicken - Farmshop, Pann's, Jim Dandy's, Terrine, The Brentwood, Flores & Sons, Honeybird, Howlin' Ray's and more!
Pioneer Chicken was, is, and will always be the truth*.
*for fast food fried chicken.
Church’s tenders are awesome. And their biscuits.
I mean Coffee Bean. What the heck is wrong with my coffee house memory? They all look similar and pretty much serve the same function.
Oh well… guess I missed that boat.
Just when I thought it was over… all of our FTC’ers just had to start talking about more Fried Chicken (albeit for a large party), and it was time for another Fried Chicken journey.
Albertsons Supermarket (Baldwin Hills)
I remember seeing Albertsons Supermarkets more often growing up, but searching near our area, there were none! The closest we found was the one on Crenshaw, so off we went.
Yes, this is Supermarket Fried Chicken. But since a previous recommendation from @tailbacku @JeetKuneBao for Vons turned out to be surprisingly decent QPR (albeit too salty), and others recommended Albertsons as being even better, we had to try.
Also, when we walked in, there was a long line just to get to the Deli counter. We ended up waiting 25+ minutes in line just to order Albertsons Supermarket Fried Chicken. Wow.
4 Piece - Fried Chicken:
One positive thing: We got our Fried Chicken literally right out of the fryer(!). By the time it got to us they were sold out, and just finishing up another batch, so it was piping hot.
It was hand-breaded (we saw a person breading the raw Chicken and preparing another batch), but after the piping hot temperature, and slightly crisped batter… the rest was not so good: It was way oversalted. I’ve never eaten anything so salty in years (not joking).
The Fried Chicken Breast was just cooked, but also completely overcooked (dry, chunky). The Leg and Thigh were better, but it was also just too salty. It was saltier than Vons (Santa Monica) by at least 50% or more(!). It seems Albertsons and Vons (and Pavilions) are now all under the same ownership group, so maybe the recipe changed?
The price is ridiculously cheap though: 8 Pieces of Fried Chicken for $6.99(!). But it was so salty, it was inedible.
Albertsons Supermarket (Baldwin Hills)
3901 Crenshaw Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90008
Tel: (323) 295-1919
First, a sad, hilarious note: While I remember Dinah’s being distinctly on the Westside (we’ve passed by so many times), doing a quick Google Maps search, and blindly following our GPS directions, we suddenly found ourselves at the other Dinah’s in Glendale!
I had no idea there were 2 Dinah’s, and this one strangely / loudly proclaimed in signage outside the restaurant and on the menu, that they’ve been proudly open since 1967(!) and owned by “the Pearson Family.” When we asked the server if they had another location or were related to the one on the Westside, her demeanor changed from smiling to hostile(!) and said, “No! We have no other location. I don’t know about any other place.”
3 Piece Fried Chicken Dinner:
We had to try their Potato Salad hoping to find something worthy to recommend to @bulavinaka. It tasted like a solid, competent version, heavy on the Mayo, slightly creamy, chilled.
Fried Chicken Breast:
Their Fried Chicken Breast was strangely round… we found out cutting into it that it was partially deboned (maybe to help with cooking times?). The breading was on the slightly (barely) crunchy side. No crispness at all, and the Breast was overcooked.
Fried Chicken Thigh:
Their Fried Chicken Thigh was juicy, not too salty, but it just tasted… so-so. Sort of flat.
Fried Chicken Leg:
Was similar to the Thigh, moist, but just tasted kind of mediocre in flavor (didn’t taste very fresh).
Was a bit chalky, but OK overall.
However, this journey got a hiccup and I can’t recommend Dinah’s Glendale or Albertsons Crenshaw (besides based on taste), because after we got home after these 2 places… we both got sick.
We didn’t eat breakfast that morning, so it was either Albertsons or Dinah’s Glendale that did us in.
Dinah’s Fried Chicken (Glendale)
4106 San Fernando Rd.
Glendale, CA 91204
Tel: (818) 244-4188
We will not be going back to either of those places.
So after a couple days of recovery, we continued our journey…
Albertsons Supermarket (Arcadia)
We met up with friends for Dim Sum in the SGV, and a Google search led us to another Albertsons nearby. We wanted to see if all Albertsons were the same…
It was worse.
It was just as salty as Crenshaw’s Albertsons (as in, inedible, completely oversalted), but to make matters worse, it was soggy Fried Chicken.
Oily, soggy, greasy, oversalted. Even at $4.99 for 4 pieces (or $6.99 for 8 pieces), it wasn’t worth it.
Albertsons Supermarket (Arcadia)
298 Live Oak Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91006
Tel: (626) 446-1416
Dinah’s Family Restaurant (Westside)
We were worried about trying another Albertsons and Dinah’s combo, but what the heck, we already weathered 2 days of getting sick, how could it get worse?
So this was the Dinah’s we remembered passing by so many times, but never stopped in.
On a side note: I asked the manager if they were related to the other Dinah’s in Glendale. It was so strange: Her demeanor changed from smiling to hostile immediately as well: She tersely muttered, “Sorry, we’re the only Dinah’s. I know nothing about any other one!”
This is sounding like some strange Hatfields vs. the McCoys or something. Oh well.
Fried Chicken Plate:
First, as you can see from the pics, both Dinah’s Fried Chicken don’t even look the same (not even close). And this Westside Dinah’s is Naked Fried Chicken (no batter).
Secondly… we took a bite:
It was sour!
We spit it out and didn’t eat any more.
Their Mashed Potatoes tasted like the other Dinah’s… sort of a mass-produced chalky mound of stuff.
Dinah’s Family Restaurant
6521 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Tel: (310) 645-0456
Hearing so many FTC’ers wax poetic about Pioneer Chicken (it was before my time), we found out there are still 2 Pioneer Chicken remaining in Southern California! So off we went to try this and we were praying it was better than the last 4 places on this journey.
Walking in, wow, it looked like something out of a 1970’s movie? Multiple shades of brown, faux wood table tops, decor that was old-school!
The menu looked like it’s been modified for the local clientele: They were offering Horchata, Jamaica, Tamarindo and they had Taquitos on the menu(!).
3 Piece Dinner - Fried Chicken:
Fried Chicken Breast:
Taking a bite, it had a thin, really crunchy, shatter-like crust, which was nice, but the flaw was that the skin was unrendered / barely cooked(!). So you had this great outer crust, and flabby Chicken Skin underneath. Which was kind of gross.
Fried Chicken Leg & Thigh:
Were better, with the same shatteringly-crisp crust, but the skin was slightly more cooked through. The meat was juicy and was only slightly too salty (leagues better than Albertsons or Dinah’s).
Their Spicy Rice was pretty tasty. It had a real kick to it, some nice heat, and it had a fragrant seasoning. The Chicken meat itself was so-so, but the Spicy Rice was pretty solid.
Smooth, nicely pureed, let’s be clear: This is typical mass-produced Mashed Potatotes, but strangely it was far better than Dinah’s, and it had that “classic Diner” taste.
The Biscuit was OK. Oily, but decent for fast food.
At $7.99 for a 3 Piece Fried Chicken Dinner (w/ 2 Sides), it felt like so-so QPR, but we liked the Spicy Rice and Mashed Potatoes.
904 S. Soto St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Tel: (323) 262-4562
At this point in the journey, we felt like we needed an intervention… we needed to eat some tried-and-true places to redeem Fried Chicken for us.
Opened since 1958, we still love going to Pann’s for the classic Googie-style architecture and American Diner feel.
First, the reports seem to be true: Pann’s Fried Chicken was not as good as it used to be.
The Fried Chicken Breast was slightly soggy (there was barely any crispiness), tasting completely different from our last visit (last year).
It was thankfully not oversalted, still tasting like a typical “American Diner Fried Chicken,” but the frying was just off.
The Fried Chicken Wing and Leg were perfect though. They seem to have nailed the cooking on the Wing and Leg, but the larger pieces suffered. The Wing and Leg were crispy and still moist and juicy.
Even their Fries were worse than before (last year). Last year’s visit had a nice crispness to the exterior and fluffy interior. This visit was just oil-saturated and not so good.
In honor of our long-lost Servorg (from our old board), we had to order Pann’s famous Patty Melt. Servorg used to champion Pann’s Patty Melt like @wienermobile champions Pastrami from Langer’s and Brent’s, so here’s to you, Servorg!
The Patty Melt is as ridiculous as before: Oozing Cheese, juicy Beef Patty, griddle-crisped Bread. Pann’s Patty Melt is that truly classic flavor and taste, and still so good! I’d say it’s slightly more tangy (from the Bread) compared to Langer’s Patty Melt (which was also delicious).
Their Steamed Spinach was a nice healthy break from all the Fried Chicken so far.
At $14.65 (+tax & tip), it feels like a standard price for Half a Fried Chicken with 2 Sides at a diner. Here’s to hoping they improve their fryer staff, or else the only thing worth getting is Fried Chicken Wings & Legs and the Patty Melt.
6710 La Tijera Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Tel: (323) 776-3770
Jim Dandy (Revisit)
For our 6th (or 7th) visit, we knew Jim Dandy delivered solid Fried Chicken with some variance in the Breast and slight salting issues, but nothing egregious. We were hoping for a decent version this time…
Jim Dandy gives you the option of Plain Fried Chicken and Spicy. We chose half and half.
Fried Chicken Breast, Spicy:
Their Spicy Fried Chicken Breast was totally overcooked, dry. But it was a nice hot temperature, with slight spicy heat, crispy, slightly crunchy batter.
Fried Chicken Leg & Thigh:
The Fried Chicken Leg was also nice and hot and crispy, but the Thigh was warm (not hot), tasting like it sat for a bit (nothing too long, but not just made). It was also less crispy than the Breast and Leg. But both the Leg & Thigh (and Wing) were moist and tender, and not overcooked.
At $4.99 for 4 pieces of Fried Chicken, Jim Dandy’s QPR is fantastic, and while they might be slightly off the mark from time-to-time (overcooked Chicken Breast (it’s happened to us about 50% of the time); or slightly oversalting)), when they’re on, Jim Dandy delivers that truly “classic Fried Chicken” taste that you crave. It’s not as good as Flossie’s or our favorites, but it’s great QPR and (sadly) far better than most of the Fried Chicken we’ve tried in L.A.
Jim Dandy Fried Chicken
11328 S. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90044
Tel: (323) 779-5567
1824 W. Manchester Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90047
Tel: (323) 758-1411
Phat Birds (Revisit)
We were feeling better, after having some very solid Fried Chicken on this journey, and we were hoping Phat Birds would continue that streak.
Phat Birds finally had their Chicharrones in stock (they didn’t get their shipment the last few times we went). First, they fry them up fresh to order: When they arrive, they’re still crackling and popping(!).
We haven’t had Chicharrones in so long (a bit unhealthy), but these were fantastic! @PorkyBelly this is for you. Deep Fried Pork Skin, freshly fried.
Fried Chicken (Half Chicken):
Their Plain Fried Chicken Leg and Wing that we ordered were perfectly fried (to order), moist, juicy, slightly crunchy and crisp. It’s just very solid Fried Chicken and nicely seasoned.
Fried Chicken Breast, Nashville Hot:
So the Chef-Owner changed up the seasoning: Their Nashville Hot is now a wet-based seasoning, and it’s hotter than before. In addition to Habanero, we could taste a more direct heat and punch from Cayenne and Paprika. It’s not nuanced enough to be anything like Howlin’s various Heat Levels (they’re all distinctly different and tasty).
But the Breast wasn’t overcooked (still moist and juicy) and not too salty (thankfully).
Fried Chicken Thigh, Nashville Hot:
Moist, juicy, same type of heat, but tasting better with the dark meat.
Overall Phat Birds delivers some quality Fried Chicken that’s been consistent in each of our 4 visits. They cook the Fried Chicken to order (so it’s always fresh fried), the Plain Fried Chicken is just a consistent, solid taste, and there’s no line. Despite the heat (and only a couple sun umbrellas setup), sitting in a corner in the peak of Summer, chillin’ to Boyz II Men, OG Snoop Dogg, and R&B, Phat Birds is an enjoyable little neighborhood spot, and it’s only about 15 minutes from Downtown (@TheCookie).
4701 E. 3rd St.
East Los Angeles, CA 90022
Tel: (323) 943-9191
And we had to finish this journey with a trip to Howlin’ Ray’s. Just to see how it compared to everything else on this journey so far…
First, the popularity of Howlin’ Ray’s has become insane: There were over 200 people in line on this visit! It took about 3 hours in line, so at this point, I’d recommend anyone to either rotate with friends in line (so you can go walk around Chinatown), or wait until the expansion (Chef Zone says it should be in “2 months” with the city approvals / planning). The expansion will double the size of the kitchen and seating, and there’ll be at least 3 registers and a Take-Out / To-Go Only Window, so that should really help reduce the wait times (and hopefully expanded hours will help).
Despite the crazy wait, when we got into the restaurant, Chef Zone and the whole staff made us (and everyone in line) feel very welcome. We didn’t even mind the wait with the jubilant, cheery, fun atmosphere.
Unsweetened Peach Ice Tea:
As refreshing as always.
(Secret Menu) The Sandwich, “Luis Style” (Boneless Breast, Slaw, Comeback Sauce, Pickles, Pan-Seared Bread):
So like the Mario Style Fries we got last time (ridiculous!), there’s another Secret Menu item: You can order their legendary Fried Chicken Sandwich, “Luis Style,” named after one of their kitchen staff who invented this twist on their great Sandwich:
Instead of the Butter Bun that it normally comes with, The Sandwich, Luis Style, places the Fried Chicken Breast inbetween 2 pieces of Pan-Seared Bread, like a Patty Melt(!).
The result is a slightly crisped, crunch from the Bread, the crunch from the juicy Fried Chicken Boneless Breast, and then the Comeback Sauce, Pickles and Slaw.
It was delicious!
I love their Fried Pickles! Crunchy, crispy and less tart and acidic than the standard Pickles.
The Sandwich (Boneless Breast, Slaw, Comeback Sauce, Pickles, Butter Bun), Level 3 “Medium” Style:
And in a tasting back-to-back, their classic Fried Chicken Sandwich is supremely popular for a reason: This is easily the most amazing Fried Chicken Sandwich we’ve ever tried!
It’s got everything: It’s freshly-fried, crispy, crunchy Fried Chicken Breast, in a normal organic shape (not machine pressed / smashed into a disc like so many places). The Butter Bun is soft and fluffy, the Comeback Sauce, Pickles and Slaw just balances everything out.
Fried Chicken Dark (Leg & Thigh), Level 1 “Country” Style (No Heat):
I’ve run out of words to describe Howlin’ Ray’s Fried Chicken, but it’s just truly so perfect, so juicy, crunchy-crispy batter, the oil is clean, the Chicken not overly salty, just perfect Fried Chicken.
Fried Chicken White (Breast & Wing), Level 3 “Medium” Style:
I’ve found that Level 3 Medium is my perfect heat level at Howlin’ Ray’s. The Fried Chicken Breast is perfectly cooked, juicy, moist, well-seasoned and just cooked through. The vast majority of Fried Chicken Breasts we’ve tried on this journey have usually been overcooked and just problematic. Not so here.
And the Level 3 Medium heat is just right to give me a nice, nuanced spiciness that’s flavorful and so tasty.
Fried Chicken Wing, Level 3.5 “Medium Plus” Style:
Update for all the Howlin’ fans out there: We found out you can order their Fried Chicken in “half levels of spice” as well(!).
So not only just Level 2 “Mild” or Level 3 “Medium”, you can order Level 2.5 “Mild Plus” or Level 3.5 “Medium Plus” etc. So @paranoidgarliclover @CiaoBob and others that wanted a little more heat, but didn’t want to jump one more full level up, you might give this a try.
Since our last visit (31st visit?), I got crushed by their Level 4 Hot, so I decided to try Level 3.5 “Medium Plus.”
I’m a wimp. It was still too spicy for me, but just barely. Much more manageable than Level 4 Hot, it has a subtle heat at first, and then I felt it… that slow climbing, burning heat. I couldn’t feel my mouth for about 30 minutes after eating!
Howlin’ Ray’s popularity is well-deserved. Put simply, their Fried Chicken was so far beyond what we’ve had on this journey there’s no comparison. It has always been consistently fresh cooked, perfectly crispy and crunchy, and with 6+ Levels of Spice (that are all different) to give it an extra twist on the taste.
I can’t wait for the expansion to happen, so that we can get back to trying our favorite Fried Chicken in L.A. more often.
Initial Hours (extended Hours will be added once they settle in):
Wed - Sun
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville Hot Chicken
727 N. Broadway Ave #128
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 935-8399
Well at least I know I’m not alone in my disdain for supermarket fried chicken.
That Dinah story is incredibly interesting.
Now you make me want to stir the pot, go to the Glendale Dinah’s and say “Hmm, okay, but not as good as West side Dinah’s” and then head over to the other Dinah’s and repeat the process…
So frustrating to hear this. It seems the lines are getting worse.
If you live on the Westside and were awakened by loud oohs, ahs, and ohs of pleasure … yeah, that was me, reading this review.
Well, that explains why you’re able to still eat so much and still walk around!
About Howlin’ Rays… I actually don’t think my tolerance for spicy is that much more than yours (and it’s certainly nowhere near @CiaoBob, just based on his reviews). But I indeed wouldn’t mind a half spice up from 3, I think.
But, oy, 3 hrs in line is too long. I think I’ll wait to see what the line is like when they expand.
That whole Dinah’s thing is kind of scary…
Nice article. It touches on the sense of tension between the remaining Dinah’s. The reason is still a mystery.
I recall a big change in staff at the Culver City Dinah’s a while back -2004-2006? The waitresses had worked here probably for decades. Then one day, they were gone - all replaced by much younger waitresses. Not that the food was great - just good for what it was - but we noticed a decline in the food and eventually stopped going.
We assumed a change in ownership was behind the changes. Maybe this son-in-law mentioned was the cause for the changes?
Love the reports @Chowseeker1999
I only had H. Ray’s once, when it was a just a truck at the Alibi room, so I am not sure what you mean by the above.
It was well fried but there were huge consistency issues (a Thigh - 2 nearly wiped my lips off, while a Breast - 4 was completely bland). I am sure these anecdotes are, now, no more than ancient Howlin’ History.
But I won’t be finding that out anytime soon - these is not a chance that I am going to wait on that line.
@Chowseeker1999 you are a champion eating machine! Thanks for your efforts and thoughtful notes. I need to make it over to Howlin’ Ray’s.
Thanks. Ah, yah I remember you had mentioned spicy levels being too spicy, but forgot you only had it back when they were a food truck. Their heat has been very consistent since they started the brick & mortar store. I thought you might’ve figured out a certain spice level that wasn’t spicy enough but the next level was too spicy, my bad.
Yah at this point I’m recommending to everyone to wait until that expansion happens for a reduction in wait times.
Thanks @attran99. Yes, you definitely need to try Howlin’ Ray’s, but I’d recommend waiting for the expansion (2 months or so).
I’m not sure if you’re up to try any more fried chicken after all this, but I tried Jim Dandy’s last night and was really really pleasantly surprised. I haven’t tried Howling Ray’s yet so can’t really tell you how it compares, and I’m sure it’s not as good, but I thought this was some really good fried chicken. It was crispy even after a 30 minute car ride (there’s no where to eat onsite) and the seasoning was awesome. They serve an original crispy recipe and a spicy recipe (not spicy like hot chicken).
The QPR is also amazing. The best deal is their 18 piece for $20 special. We got the 10 piece for $13.50, which is still amazing.
Warning: The location is super dodgy and go at your own risk.
Bulletproof glass is one indicator that the food can be good
has bulletproof glass theory ever been wrong?